“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.” – Chuang Tzu
Sometimes the only thing you can do is to just stop searching. Making it look like you’re after the feeling is not the same as actually having the feeling.
I was at a point in my life where everything looked great from the outside. I had just graduated college with Honors and two Degrees; I had my own apartment that I could afford; I got a new job plus multiple freelance opportunities.
But still… something was missing.
It can be frustrating when we know we should be happy and yet… something just isn’t right. Just because I look cool and collected on the outside does not mean I feel that way on the inside.
I knew I had my issues. I had my issues around eating, around my body image, and my tendency to isolate myself from others. The more I isolated myself, the more I lived inside my head, and the more I beat myself up over the fact that I’m “making up problems that shouldn’t actually be there.”
But that feeling is real.
The feeling that something isn’t quite right is real.
A huge chunk of my life was missing.
I realized I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t an easy realization to make. It isn’t something we want to admit to ourselves. It sounds so grim. “I’m not happy” – it sounds so final and depressing. I wasn’t depressed but that statement just sounded so… sad.
So I decided to go on a quest to become happier. I read books, articles, and blogs about the topic. I watched documentaries. I put more and more on my plate, thinking that all of these “happiness resources” have got to help me become a happier person.
I had the resources right there in front of me. But still… I wasn’t happy.
That’s when I realized something.
Just because I have the resources…
Just because I have the information right there in front of me…
It doesn’t mean that I’m actually taking action inside of myself to change.
We do this with many issues. We drown ourselves in resources with the hopes of finding not just one solution, but finding multiple. We want to try them all – and many times, WE DO.
Or so we think… but that’s why it doesn’t work. Piling these things on just doesn’t work. That’s not how change happens. Reading book after book and educating myself on happiness without any real action will not make me a happier person. It will simply make me a person who’s more educated on happiness. But not necessarily happier.
So I decided to stop.
I decided to stop searching for happiness and focus on FEELING happiness.
I remembered certain things that were reiterated from the articles and so I created simple action steps for myself that would allow me to focus more on MYSELF rather than continuing this quest.
I stopped searching for happiness because I wanted happiness to find me.
Better yet, I wanted to find joy.
I left behind my anxieties about finding the solution (although it wasn’t easy) and I began to just LIVE. I began to learn myself all over again. What is it that makes me happy? What is it that brings me joy? What sensations and activities bring me pleasure?
We have evolved into a society that shames pleasure even though it is the very core of our existence. We crave pleasure and we deserve to feel pleasure. We were made to feel pleasure. That’s why it exists.
That’s when the change happened.
I left behind what I felt I ought to do and started doing what my body and mind wanted to do.
I call this practice “sensual living” because it requires you to be more sensual in your daily life – to be more mindful of what you’re doing; to take time for yourself; to notice and take in your surroundings with all your senses. The very act of living a more mindful life can be transformational on your quality of life.
I believe that turning to mindfulness can really help us learn what we really need to do in order to feel that inner joy and peace we so desire. Once you stop and blatantly ask yourself “what do I really WANT?” the answer might surprise you.
It’s important to live accordingly with what your body and mind are telling you. Your body never wants to do you harm. So why not just surrender to its well wishes?
You’ll be surprised what you’ll find out about yourself in the process and how much happier you’ll feel in return.
Photo by Patty
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16 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Searching for Happiness”
An insight worthy of sharing – and of taking to heart
Wow. I have been doing the same – reading up on how to be more happy and I’m just not feeling it. Going to try sensual living. I know I need to make a change but not sure how… Hope this leads me down the path I’ve been searching for!
Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you’re on a similar pathway, Jocelyn!
This is well-written and your thoughts on “sensual living” resonated with me. This statement is so important:
“Reading book after book and educating myself on happiness without any real action will not make me a happier person. It will simply make me a person who’s more educated on happiness.”
This is true for all issues and our lives as a whole. It’s so easy to get caught up in reading, viewing, and writing… and forget whatever core it is that we’re busy elaborating on.
Exactly! We tend to have a more analytical mind rather than being more intuitive and feeling; this can be great in many circumstances but when it comes to happiness and a joy – an inherently emotional and intuitive feeling, being analytical does not help. Thank you for reading!
Thanks for your story. I too think happiniess isn’t something that you cannot directly strive for. It’s a by-product of living mopre fully and not by the worn out and second hand rules that we’ve picked up uncritically. Rules can create fear. Learning to be less fearful and anxious is part of living more fully..
Agreed, very well put, Peter. Thank you for reading!
Gautam Buddha said, ” We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves “
Great take on the subject, Kammie. Happiness occurs irregardless of outer circumstances as evidenced by higher reported levels of happiness from those with less. I think we’re afraid that we will neglect other things or become selfish if we really try to align ourselves with happiness. There’s also the fear of how we will look in others’ eyes. Good food for thought…
Thank you so much for reading! Being perceived as selfish is definitely a huge thing for many of us that keeps us from feeling true pleasure in the joys of life. It’s definitely gotten a bad connotation but I’m hopeful that things will change and self-love will become a more prominent thing in our society.
Thanks for the insight and it all depends on how you put into action rather than reading lots of articles..
Indeed! Thank you for reading, Satya!
Absolutely love this article.This is exactly how I feel! Thank you for sharing. I know the answers are always inside ourselves…it’s just that sometimes I forget to look!
Very insightful article. I’ve been struggling with what I “need” to accomplish in my life. Your remarks on sensual living really resonated with me.
Brilliant post Kammie. Thank you just what I needed for today. Feeling very, very unhappy now I am divorced and still getting used to the idea. Wondering still how I ended up here, like you having read all the self help books and resources. I think we have to make a conscious choice to act more on our needs and as you say feel what makes us happy which involves taking action. Thank you so much. Best wishes Sharon
What is happiness is personal and different for different people. For someone it might be having children, for someone else it might be having loads of friends, for someone else it might be travelling around the world, etc. This is why you should never compare yourself to others, you have to figure out what it is that makes you happy yourself.
Perhaps the easiest way is a) to think of times when you felt the happiest in your life, and b) to imagine only having one month to live and thinking of what you would love to do in that time so that when the month is up you can say that you lived a full life and that you have no regrets. But basically you just need to cherish every single day, stop rushing so much and just enjoy life here and now.